Solutions for Everyday Overindulgences

Yolanda GonzalezYolanda GonzalezFrom sundaes to sunshine to sangria, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing

Your Overindulgence: Food

What You Did: You can't believe you ate that whole thing. Now you're paying for it with a burning sensation in your chest and a bitter taste in the back of your throat.

Now What? You'll have to wait for your stomach to empty to get complete relief, says Patricia Raymond, a gastroenterologist in Chesapeake, Virginia. Meanwhile…

  • Don't lie down. Eating more than your stomach can comfortably hold means there's nowhere for gastric acids to go but up, into the esophagus. Reclining will only exacerbate this problem. You should stay upright for three to four hours after overeating.
  • Take a brisk 30-minute walk to help speed digestion along. Don't do anything more energetic, however. Bouncing around could cause gastric acids to slosh up into the throat.
  • Avoid most antacids. By neutralizing existing stomach acids, they prompt the stomach to produce more of them. The exception is Gaviscon, available in drugstores as chewable tablets or in liquid form. It contains an ingredient that forms a barrier between the acids and the esophagus.
  • Loosen your belt. "The pressure can worsen heartburn," says Raymond.

See Real Simple's 10 Diet Myths, Debunked.

Your Overindulgence: Alcohol

What You Did: Went out for drinks with friends. Three martinis later (but who's counting?), you're queasy and uneasy.

Now What? Hand your car keys to a sober friend, call a cab, or stay put for the night. It will be hours till your judgment and reflexes are no longer impaired. Gastroenterologist Patricia Raymond says there's no way to speed up detox. Nor are there medically proven cures for veisalgia, better known as a hangover. Folk remedies abound, but none have proven more effective than these symptom relievers:

  • Drink plenty of fluids to counter the dehydrating effects of the ethanol in alcoholic beverages. Do this before going to sleep and you could avoid a hangover entirely. (Water or a sports drink will work.) Avoid temperature extremes (hot tea, ice-cold juice), which can shock an upset stomach.
  • Eat bland carbohydrates, like toast, to soothe an upset stomach.
  • Take a pain reliever, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, for headache pain. Avoid acetaminophen; in conjunction with alcohol, it can cause liver damage.
  • Try Pepto-Bismol if your stomach is upset.

See the Downside of Drinking from Real Simple.

Your Overindulgence: An All-Nighter

What You Did: Stayed up till the birds started singing to finish Anna Karenina and meet your book-club deadline. Today you're groggy, your head's pounding, and you can barely focus.

Now What? Try to sneak in some rest, and turn to energy-boosting foods and drinks.

  • Take a 20-minute nap, or two 10-minute ones. "You can't make up for lost sleep, but you can grab some new sleep," says Georgia Witkin, Ph.D., director of the stress program at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City. "When you're exhausted, you'll drift off for milliseconds throughout the day," she adds. Short naps can reduce the number of those micro-naps.
  • Eat to stay alert. Try protein: eggs in the morning, lean meat or cheese at lunch and dinner. Avoid simple carbs, such as white bread, pastries, and candy, which will cause blood-sugar spikes.
  • Sip, don't gulp, your coffee or tea. There's plenty of proof that caffeine can improve concentration, but its eye-opening effects work best in small doses -- two ounces of coffee or four of tea every hour. Quit about six hours before bedtime so you don't interfere with another night's sleep.

More from Real Simple:
Solutions for More Overindulgences
Everyday Health Dilemmas Solved
8 Health Shortcuts That Work